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Rabbis allegedly offered to torture husbands into divorce

Oct. 10, 2013 at 4:43 PM

TRENTON, N.J., Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Two rabbis orchestrated a scheme to kidnap reluctant Orthodox Jewish husbands to get them to agree to divorce, federal prosecutors in New Jersey said Thursday.

Four people, including the rabbis, were arrested Wednesday night, The (Newark) Star-Ledger reported. Six others could face charges.

Under Orthodox Jewish law, women seeking divorce must obtain their husbands' consent with a document known as a get. While they can be divorced in the civil courts and remarry legally without the document, those marriages would not be valid under religious law.

In court documents unsealed Thursday, prosecutors said an FBI agent posed as a woman seeking a divorce and another agent as her brother. The rabbis, Mendel Epstein, 68, and Martin Wolmark, 55, allegedly offered to do whatever it took to convince the woman's husband to cooperate, including torturing him with a cattle prod.

"Ya know, this is an expensive thing to do," Epstein was recorded saying. "It's not simply ... basically what we are going to be doing is kidnapping a guy for a couple of hours and beating him up and torturing him and then getting him to give the get."

The rabbis allegedly charged as much as $50,000 for their services.

The two rabbis, Ariel Potash, 40, and a man identified only as Yaakov were scheduled to appear before a magistrate in Trenton later Thursday.

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